On the Road to Diagon Alley: Universal reveals more about the The Hogwarts Express
We're hearing our first credible rumor of a soft-opening date for Diagon Alley: May 14. No guarantees, of course, with soft openings, but if you are visiting Universal in mid-May, we would love
a trip report, with photos, if you get in. Good luck!]
Universal Orlando Resort teased a bit more about its Hogwarts Express ride that will connect the two Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands at the resort — the existing Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and the upcoming Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida.
We've profiled the Hogwarts Express on "The Road to Diagon Alley" before, and now Universal's offering its own description of the adventure visitors with Park-to-Park tickets will experience on the train.
To board the Hogwarts™ Express at King's Cross Station, you'll walk straight through a solid brick wall onto Platform 9 ¾™ where a Hogwarts™ Prefect will be waiting to lead you to your passenger compartment.
As you wind your way through the British countryside, keep watch outside your window. You never know who — or what — you might see flying, swooping or lurking just outside the train. You might encounter an adventure or two along the way as well, before alighting at Hogsmeade™ Station in Islands of Adventure.
Visitors also will be able to board the Express at a new Hogsmeade station for the trip over to Diagon Alley in USF.
I'm really curious about the brick effect... Seems hard to pull off at the scale it would require for a mass transportation/high volume ride system.
reading details of this on here and on the Theme Park Review site it seems as if Universal have something very clever indeed lined up. It promises to be a unique experience.
I also vaguely remember something about the brick effect being one of the seemingly impossible challenges posed to Disney Imagineering when they hopelessly tried to win the Harry Potter franchise. :)
FWIW, 1,200 guests per hour is a pretty respectable hourly capacity rate. That's about what Thunder Mountain does, if memory serves me.
Facinating video. The 8:52 video on the Diagon Alley expansion is a must-watch. It seems very exciting.
Wouldn't it be 2,400 per hour if you include both trains running at the same time. I mean it would be 1,200 for Kings cross and 1,200 for Hogsmeade right? I am guessing that by the time they unload and then reload the trains then make the trip I think that they will be lucky to do the trip 5 times per hour (about 12 mins per trip). Which would be 2000 per hour total for both trains combined (1000 per train or station per hour).
Apx. 1200 capacity hr.from each terminal, which means the actual capacity is apx. 2400 per hr. (train leaving Hogsmeade and train leaving Diagon simultaneously). That's in the vicinity of attractions like POC & Spider Man. This is in reality one attraction that has two loading platforms that operated in sync.
Brent: I see that we came up with the same explanation at the same time. From what I've read on OU from their insiders, it seems like the boarding & unboarding process will be fairly quick. They compared it to the Mummy's Revenge . So the number should be fairly close to the 2400 figure, which is a very good capacity.
Yeah Rob I hope they can get that many per hour through the ride. The one thing that Universal ride operators will have to watch is people trying to stay on the train after the ride is over to take pictures since the cars are really close replicas of the ones from the movies. I can just see people trying to do this and slowing the process down.
I am still shaking my head that a park-to-park ticket is
Parents of 4 on WDW Magic had an interesting article comparing the pricing strategy of Universal vs. WDW. On their graph, while a single day park hopper was similar in price at both resorts, two and three day park hoppers were "considerably" cheaper at Universal than Disney. The thought was that Universal was trying to hold onto their visitors for at least a two or three day visit, but penalizing the single day visit by making it less feasible economically, and the slightly longer visit much more economical. That theory seems very feasible. So a one day visit to Universal is apx. the same as Disney. But beyond that, there's really no comparison. Universal would be much less. The Hogwarts Express is surely positioned to get visitors into a two park multi day stay. Universal employees that post on some other sites have said that even now Universal sells very few single park tickets. After Hogwarts Express debuts it will probably be close to nil.
Brent: Good point on gawking slowing up the line. My guess would be they'll run it like the loading/unloading on Transformers where they yell at you to get you on & off super quick, using that as part of the ride scenario of urgency due to the Transformers attack. In this case, get off before the Dementors get you. LOL
Rob, I am not trying to compare Disney to Universal in pricing or anything else. Put simply, my family has never park hopped at either company's parks. In fact, it is my opinion that all their parks offer plenty of attractions to occupy at least one full day of our time. The added expense of park hopping has never even entered my mind. But now Universal is telling guests that whether they purchase a one, two, three, or four day ticket, they must also purchase a park hopper to ride the train. In other words, Hogwarts Express is nothing more than a very expensive up-charge attraction. Universal wants people to pony up forty bucks to ride a train 100 yards to an adjacent park -- what a rip off.
James; I understand where you are coming from. It's difficult economies where whole families are involved. I'm not defending Universal's pricing policies, just speculating that their aim is probably to encourage multiple day trips and discourage single day one park trips. In the past they were probably happy to get a tourist to make at least a one day trip away from their Disney vacation. Now they want that tourist to stay onsite, nearby, or leave Disney for at least 2,3 or 4 days.
I am not sure how charging $40 extra to ride a train encourages anyone to stay longer. If I have to pay extra just to experience one D (or maybe C) ticket Harry Potter ride, I will stay LESS days to make up the cost. And why shouldn't I? I can park hop... so instead of staying four days and visiting each park twice, I can stay two days and still visit each park twice by park hopping.
James: It may all come down to survey question scenarios and how the numbers are crunched in relation to those. And you're probably right about people doing the math. Supposedly Universal ticket booths highlight the park hopper functions and downplay the availability of one park admissions. They probably don't want that single park customer and would rather have a customer spend a long day in both parks. If a family is coming from Disney for only one day they want to have them as long as possible to maximize their profit. Hogwart's Express is probably going to have huge demand and if you put everything together from start to finish on the attraction, it's probably going to be viewed like an E ticket, which it may well be.
We will be at universal in mid May.Does anyone know how to get picked for a soft opening?
I just wish folks like me, and many others on this site, who view Universal as a multi-day vacation destination were not being price gouged for one ride. There should be an option to take the train on a round trip for those who have multi-day, single park passes. Why punish faithful fans just because they don't want to pay an extra $40 to park hop?
But if you don't have a mulit-park ticket, you're going to be skipping either Hogsmeade *or* Diagon Alley. Why would you want to only do one of those *and* ride the train?
James; I understand your position completely. If I remember correctly, Universal originally had not decided on whether to require a two park ticket to access the Hogwart's attraction. It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall for their internal discussions. Perhaps the logistics of re queing, checking tickets etc. & turn around time seemed too formidable of an obstacle. Or the extra money interest popped up. Interesting.....Heh, if your're staying multiple days, you might want to check into getting an AP. I wasn't smart enough to do that my first two trips, but I saved a lot doing it last year and now I scheduled another vacation 11 months from that one, so I get two long vacations out of one AP. Makes my ticket costs cheap as all heck, and AP's are park hoppers too. Universal AP's are very fair in price. And with the multi day hoppers the difference between single & hopper becomes almost negligible. A 2 day hopper is $176, a 3 day hopper is $186, and a 4 day hopper is only $196. Once you get past that single day hopper, the prices are very reasonable.
I personally do not think that it was as much of a money grab by Universal as it was a nightmare to think of what to do with people who did not have park to park tickets if they let them ride the train to the other park. I also think Universal used to be satisfied getting people who were staying on site at Disney to come to Universal for one or two days of their vacation, but now with all the money Universal is putting into their parks and in new onsite hotels they want people to stay at Universal for their whole vacation now.
Rob and Brent, you guys make great points, and I appreciate everything you have to say. But any way you slice it, Universal is charging $40 per ticket to ride a train (anon poster 220.127.116.11 you could not be more wrong with your comment unless you post another comment trying to defend it). I like multi-day vacations and leisurely strolls through one park....it is the way I roll. Why should I have to spend more money just to be allowed to ride one attraction?
I really do understand what you are saying James I guess my point was that as a "big boy" Universal is still cheaper than Disney even buying a park to park. I also think that doing a round trip ticket would have really backed up the lines at both stations even more than it will already be (especially in the first year its open). And even though I fully understand why you buy base tickets without park to park I think that you are probably in a small minority. I live down here and have people visit all the time and have yet to have anyone buy a non park to park ticket yet. In fact most have bought annual passes for $199 and say they will be back sometime in the next 12 months lol. Come to think of it I should start charging for my guest room lol.
You're probably right, Brent, but I gotta be me. I seem to be in the minority on most things these days. I would rather put that $200 towards another full day of fun than a ride on a train. Thankfully my local zoo offers train rides for $2.50, so no big loss I guess!
Universal is going to sell a metric ton of park hopper passes from the entrances to the respective train stations. 'Mommy why can't we go on the train ride? Whhhaaaaaaa' Seems like a genius move to me...
I always see people reference Disney trying to get the Harry Potter franchise for the Disney parks, but I have never seen any concept art or descriptions of what their pitch was for Potter. I have, however, read conflicting reports that Disney didn't even bother trying to get Potter because they figured that if Universal spent the money and built it that Disney would still win...because it would attract guests to Orlando and they would come to Disney too. So, Disney didn't want Potter.
Okay, Annette, I'll bite on your partial thread hijack...
Best a Disney/Harry Potter info summary I've found: Jeff Elliott's comment May 24 at 804am
^I love Jeff Elliot, but that whole discussion thread is filled with theory, rumor, conjecture, and urban legends. All we know is Disney and Rowling talked, and things did not work out. That's it. Everything else is just rumor.
The debate about single-day tickets and multi-park hoppers is somewhat spurious to me. I kind of understand your stance James but since you've admitted that you tend to visit for several days what's the problem with buying a multi park hopper ticket, especially as they tend to work out cheaper?
David, I do not see where a multi park ticket is a cheaper option unless (as Rob pointed out) you purchase an annual pass for $200 (blackout dates apply, including the entire month of July and any other normal vacation period of the year)
Just to change the topic slightly, back to Hogwarts Express. I have a feeling, from everything I've read, that this attraction is going to surprise a lot of people that are underestimating it's attraction potential. Between the two train stations, effects at the stations, the train interior & exterior, screens and atmosphere effects on the train itself, and a decent length of show this has the potential to be a wow attraction. Universal must be pretty confident about the train since they have been featuring it in its ads & presentations even more than Gringotts (which may end up as the premier ride experience among all theme parks). Of course, this is just speculation coming from someone who isn't a big Potter fan, but I think it's going to be a really excellent memorable experience, much more than a means to move people between two parks. You can walk to IOA from Studios much quicker than the queue times for this ride will be.
I am sure it will be a fine attraction, Rob. My comments comparing the train to my van were very much tongue in cheek.
I'll buy the park hoppers once, just so my family can do the train. After that, we'll go back to the cheaper single day tickets and just skip the train altogether.
James Rao - I do not see your point and I'll explain. First off getting a park hopper ticket at Disney World is not like the multi park ticket at Universal Orlando because of proximity. The parks in WDW are not close and you have to use transportation either bus, car, or monorail. Where as the parks at UO are right next to each other and easily accessed by walking. Even Disneyland out in Cali has this same model down and it works because of proximity.
Apple, to be somewhat blunt, "my point" that Universal is charging my family $200 to ride a train is not open to debate. It is a matter of fact.
It's good to see a long good well rounded and polite discussion on TPI again, kind of what we used to have on the forums. For some reason, it seems that people don't post on the forums much anymore. Robert used to cut the forum topics off at 100 responses, now it takes weeks to reach 10.
The pricing strategies are certainly a complex business decision. It is safe to say that if Universal was not expecting to significantly increase its revenue stream from this new HP expansion, it would not be spending the money. So, in response to James' frustration, I would say that it IS frustrating, but that (basically) if we want expensive, immersive new lands, we will have to pay for them. I dug a little deeper into the pricing, and discovered a few things. First off, WDW has had a pricing strategy that strongly encourages at least one day of visit to each of the four parks. So, the 4-day base ticket is only slightly more expensive than the 3-day one. Because of that, the per-day rate drops dramatically when you purchase 4 days or higher (from $91 per day to $73.50 per day). Disney uses pricing to dictate their desired customer behavior, and we fall into line, because it makes economic sense to do so. Universal Orlando has likewise encouraged a 2-day visit by making the 2-day ticket dramatically cheaper per day than the one day ticket ($68 vs. $96). BUT, the per-day cost for a 2-day ticket used to be even cheaper, much cheaper in fact, an acknowledgement that Universal was often viewed as a one-day experience by some park-goers. In the recent price hikes, the 2-day passes went up dramatically (much more than the one-day pass), and the new "deal" became the 3-day pass (now $49 a day). The unspoken message is clear: "we now wish you to view us as a three day experience." BUT, as you said, without paying for park hopper, you don't get to ride the new Hogwarts express. So, what are they hoping we'll do? Buy a three-day park hopper, use one day immersed exclusively in the HP world (which many will do) and then spend one day each on the rest of IOA and UO. The per-day park hopper admission price on a 2-day is $88 for Universal, EXACTLY THE SAME as a per-day park hopper on a 4-day WDW. BUT, the per-day cost of a 3-day Universal park hopper drops dramatically, to $62, and undercuts significantly the BASE per-day cost at WDW on a 4-day pass (without park-hopper) , which is $73.50. So, that's the game. Universal is encouraging folks to view them as a value over Disney, if visited for 3 days. The pricing strategy implies that they view WWHP as a pseudo "3rd gate." One thing that I find very interesting is that Universal still charges significantly less to park-hop than Disney does, even though park-hopping at Universal is much easier and offers a more useful experience than at Disney, because of the compact layout of the resort. (also, I believe there will be one more round of hikes before WWHP-Diagon Alley opens, and based on this analysis, the rates will increase for 1 and 2 day park hoppers but remain basically unchanged for the 3-day version)
Interesting stuff, Jonah, but please understand I am neither comparing nor contrasting Disney and Universal pricing.
I get that, James. I just think it's interesting that we have long ago resigned ourselves to Disney's pricing strategies, but are up-in-arms about this new change (which I feel also), even though the result may still be a better value than Disney.
There is no doubt Universal is still a cheaper option than Disney, but that is to be expected as they have half the number of parks. And the fact that both companies are pushing the boundaries of what most folks can afford is without question. However, I find it difficult to believe that anyone thinks $40 is a reasonable and justifiable price for a train ride.
$40 not just for a train ride, but to literally not leave the HP franchise for an entire day. (At least, that's how they hope you will view it!) You, of course, are highlighting the stark truth, which is that they are charging $40 for a train ride...
Agreed Jonah. I deal in the harsh reality of fiscal responsibility. Uncommon these days, I know, but required if you want to do more than "survive" later in life. ;)
And yours! *tip of the hat*
The only comment I have is that I am just buzzing to visit this. We are already booked up for end of June and so I just hope that it is open on our arrival. If not then I shall just have to book another trip as soon as we get back. We know all the London layouts as visit London many times but to experience the Hogwarts Express and all the other thrills this new phase is going to bring will just be thrilling. Please Please Please be open then....Florida here we come !!!!!!!!!!
Today being the traditional St. Paddy's parade day, it's cool to hear a "tip of the hat" phrase. A happy St. Pats day today, & the real date on Monday, to all of the Irish Americans plus the Irish overseas. We have a case of Guinness Stout, Irish music, and a huge pot of Irish stew for the next three days plus the pub tonight. A "tip of the hat, and a top of the morning" to all of you.
Holy Rao.... Saying the same thing 50 different ways to get your point across. We get it.... You know who won't care about it? On-site guests who have multi-day park hoppers... Yes, it is unfair to anyone buying a single park ticket, I agree.
N B your question is not a valid comparison of the situation. I go to both Universal parks I just like to do it one park at a time. But Universal says if I tour in this fashion I cannot visit one of their upcoming attractions. You're right, it is unfair, and perhaps unethical. And you know who DOES care about it? On site guests with multi-day ONE park tickets!
Robert: I'm going to take a gamble & hope your source is correct about a May soft opening. I have reservations for Cabana & Royal Pacific for two weeks in Sept. I just added an additional reservation at Portofino for May 17th - May 24th. If we get lucky on an opening I'll give a ride review when I get back. No pictures though since I'm not very knowledgable about the technical stuff. And if they don't open I'll just enjoy the Florida sun at the pools. It's been a really tough winter in the northeast.
I think that total is ~$400 US, right? That's a lot more than the $155 I was going to spend on four day single park tickets. And double an annual pass with blackout dates. You're trying to gouge me even more than Universal!!! ;)
My point James is that the vast majority of UK visitors come for a week or two weeks and therefore buy these flexible tickets, (equivalent of $80 per park unlimited 14 day access) so we aren't going to even think about whether we need a special ticket to ride the Express as we will already have one.
Lol... my children don't even like Harry Potter - they think he is just for "kids" (or adults who like kids books). They are more excited about riding Spider-Man again! One of my kids asked me why I was even "arguing about a dumb train!" Leave it to the children to give the adults some perspective.
Then that's your choice James and I'm delighted you're happy with it and even more pleased that your kids are happy with it. For the record I'm not a Harry Potter fan either, but next time I'm in Florida there's no way I'd miss out on riding the Express. I'll just make sure I have the appropriate tickets in place.
One nice money saving option when staying on site is the AP discount. My preferred AP (no blackout dates) just saved me $210 over & above the regular 7 day discount rate for Portofino. Plus it has 10% food & merchandise discounts. Add it all together & its more than paid for itself since I bought it last fall. For someone staying for a week or so at Universal, its a great deal. You can always take a side trip to Disney or Sea World while staying at a deluxe hotel.
Anon poster 18.104.22.168, do I really sound happy about the fact that Universal has made this horrid up-charge decision? If so, my writing is even worse that I thought.
Hey James what if Universal just raised the price of their 2 park non park hopping ticket to $188 like Disney's is but they let you ride the train all you want to. That sounds like a decision that You and Universal would love cause you would not be forced to buy a park hopper to ride the train and Universal could make the extra money they want to make. Now everyone is happy! :-) Just kidding with you James I see your point I just wanted to keep the debate going.
Sounds like a great idea....NOPE!
Sorry James - for some reason my post appeared anonymously last night.
One further point:
Good morning, David. In this case, you have to get past the rhetoric to the truth of the matter. Universal Orlando, for whatever reason (money mostly, I am sure), has made a decision that anyone who visits for less than five days must pay $40 to ride the Hogwarts Express. It is really that simple. You can talk about logistics, crowd control, experience, theme, or whatever other lipstick you want to put on this pig, but the fact remains, a one to four day ticket to Universal Orlando just went up $40 for folks who want to experience a new train ride.
Parkhopping has always seemed sort of stupid to me, but I understand that other people enjoy it. It's just such a waste of money in my eyes, because when my family enters a park, we go to that park and do all the things in it and have never once thought "let's leave and go to EPCOT!". Parkhopping is such a hassle in my eyes and always seemed just for people who have attention deficit problems and have trouble staying in one place for long. Even if a parkhopper was just $5 or even $10 more, I never thought my family would buy parkhoppers. To me it feels like ordering bottled water in a restaurant when there is tap available that's totally fine...just a silly thing to spend money on needlessly.
One thing I want to add, and it's that I see this totally different from James.
No not what James means, he like myself buy a 2 or 3 day pass that does not include a park hopper, you go to one park first day and spend all day enjoying that park including that sides HP world, then the next
Annette, your second of two very long winded, meandering, incomprehensible posts, is insulting, rude, and a complete and utter misrepresentation of me, my posts, and my stance on theme parks in general and Universal in particular. Moreover, your post is just one more example of your penchant for hate filled attacks against faithful TPI members who happen to disagree with your opinion. I for one appreciate a good rebuttal, and a strong debate, but personal attacks such as your latest tirade are unconscionable. If you truly are a mother of two, then you should be adult enough to be ashamed of yourself.
James: I am laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my chair. You made some great points that I agree with completely (Except for the Park Hopper).
Rob, I am so glad my taking it on the chin for no apparent reason can provide you with so much amusement! ;)
James: That's not what made me laugh. Your comments to that person were hilarious and so right on. I couldn't have said it better. And, you've been a really good sport through this whole discussion, and held up your arguments pretty well. Sorry if I phrased it the wrong way. You have a jaw of granite.
Thanks, Rob, you are a gentleman, a scholar, and someone who knows just the right things to say to diffuse an explosive situation. Bravo!
James: You're welcome. Keep up the good work. You're a great contributor to this site & a class act. It's that old adage that we always discussed in labor/management talks, "we can agree to disagree". Your comments are well intentioned with respect for other's opinions. Unfortunately, there's one or two people who post that couldn't spell class if you spotted them the clas.
Too funny, bro. Although, now that I think about it, Annette has me pegged. I
I'd like to chime in a bit here.... Firstly Annette, while I understand you don't see the point of park hoppers, the reasoning you put behind it is a bit flawed. For people who do not necassarily have the time to enjoy each park on separate days, it gives them a chance to enjoy the highlights of each park durin their stay. Also, park hopper tickets allow you to make the most of your vacation... Take Disney for example, say you have the dining plan, and Epcot has extra magic hours. Well, park hopper enables you to basically get a full day at Hollywood studios from rope drop to say 5, AND have dinner at Epcot at say 6, then still have 3-4 hours to enjoy Epcots attractions. It's not for people with an attention deficit but for people who are either on a time constraint, or want to make the MOST out of their stay.
Anon poster 22.214.171.124 Exactly my point. Thank you.
So James I am confused. Are for or against paying the $40.00 for park hoppers to ride the train? Please elaborate!
You know, I'm not sure anymore! ;)
Haha, well this thread just got booted off the front page by a story about water. So my hope of keeping this going and getting to 100 comments just disappeared. Oh well :)
It was a worthy goal, Brent, and really, continuing would be easy for me since I could simply cut and paste responses for anyone still confused about the point I was trying and failing to make.
We can keep this going! I'd like to alter the topic though...
I have been following this post for the last two days. I actually agree with all parties in some fashion . However when I pay for a park admission I expect to get access to all of the rides and attractions within that park. I have watched this change dramatically since being there for Disney World opening and having supplier passes for the Epcot opening.. A lot of time has passed and the sheer volume of persons waiting at both ends of the ride make it impossible for a round trip. My favorite ride is and always will be the Disney Monorail at Fireworks time going from hotel to hotel and for that I don't even have to have a park admission just pay parking or eat at the hotels.
As a Potter fan whose adolescent children adore both the HP books and the movies, I will buy the park hopper pass for at least one day, and perhaps more, during our next trip to Orlando to guarantee an immersive experience in the WWOHP and multiple opportunities to ride the HE. And believe me, as much money as I'll be spending, I'm hoping a lot of the locals will decide the park hopper is too expensive and will either skip the Hogwarts Express entirely or better yet, protest by staying home. Because I'm utterly convinced that the lines for HE will be insane, and the fewer Potter haters and park hopper dissenters aboard, the better.
Connecting parks via some sort of "cool" transportation system
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